Coqui ... Coqui ... Oh Shut Up, Already!

the coqui from plaguing maui island in hawaii CBS

On the idyllic Islands of Hawaii, everyday is paradise. But, as CBS News Correspondent Sandra Hughes reports, these days when night falls, a stranger in paradise launches a deafening assault.

The coqui tree frog, named for its uniquely piercing mating call, has been keeping Maui residents awake all night.

Homeowners say it's hard to concentrate on anything else.

Barely the size of a quarter, coqui frogs are nearly impossible to find. They hide all day and go silent when approached.

"Every time I think I am closing in on one another calls behind me and draws me away," says scientist Kristy Martin.

Lorance Lapow says he has climbed out of bed in the middle of the night, crawling on hands and knees, just to find one coqui.

"It was loud enough I could hear it 60 feet away on other side of the house," says Lapow. "It makes sleeping impossible."

Frogs never existed in Hawaii until three years ago, when it is believed they hitched a ride to Maui on imported plants. And though they're reproducing quickly, right now much of the Islands are frog free.

So just how loud can the coqui get?

The coqui's call can get up to 90 decibels, the equivalent of a running lawn mower, says Martin.

When tourists check into a Hawaiian resort they are usually looking for peaceful trade winds and soothing sea sounds, not the piercing mating call of the coqui frog. Hotel management is so worried the frogs will scare away customers they won't even discuss the problem.

But when we checked into the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Maui, there was no shortage of coqui mating calls or confused guests.

But the noise, which has sent some hotel guests packing, isn't what concerns scientists: It's the Hawaiian ecosystem. The frogs are eating all the bugs that serve as food for tropical birds.

"While I love these little creatures, we have to protect what we have here," says Martin.

Scientists have come up with what they think is safe extermination: coffee spray.

"Caffeine works in frogs like humans," says Martin. "It elevates the heart rate, soaks in their skin and stops their heart."

Desperate nurseries can't wait for the government to approve the caffeinated killing, so they are refrigerating imported plants to put a deathly chill on the frogs.

Meanwhile, homeowners have made frog hunting a summer pastime.

Still, it may be too late to eliminate the coqui completely, leaving Hawaii with a less than soothing sunset serenade.
  • Jaime Holguin

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